Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Essay From The Day Hospital

I am laying in a comfortable hospital bed with my son. His head is nestled between my shoulder and my breast. He is sleeping. He is sweating profusely. Since he was a baby, he has sweat in hid sleep. I don't sweat this much when my heart rate's hanging at 180 for an hour. We've grown used to this.

The mattress beneath us is rubbery, and filled with air. I feel like we're floating (and I'm done with my dopey meds.) It lends an otherworldly character to our time here. His head is covered with the finest crop of hair I've ever seen on a person. Any less hair and he'd be bald. Any more hair and you'd be able to see his hairline sitting across the table at dinner. For the past few days, Pablo's hair has been more easily seen from a distance - it's so fine, it's hard to see close up. His eyebrows and eye lashes came back earlier than his scalp, and have come back stronger. They are beautiful.

Pablo has looked like a new person many times over the past year. His weight has dropped and recovered. His face has swelled up and returned to its normal shape. His tummy has distended, then fallen back to flat. His long, curly pre-Raphaelite hair was stable for a long time during treatment, falling all over the place, mostly in his face. Back then, to see Pablo was to see a boy brushing his never-cut hair out of his eyes. Then one day it started coming out in clumps on his pillow. Jo Ann and I knew it was time to take him to see Michael at Rudy's Barbershop. Our boy and his wonderful hair parted ways. From that day, Pablo has been our bald boy; we instantly fell back in love with his unobstructed facial expressions. At a time when P's physical + intellectual development were growing boldly, his overall look was reverting to that of a baby: bald, skinny and often overnighting in diapers due to the effects of chemo.

As we lay here, Pablo's gentle breath flies below the intensity of the perspiration dripping off every inch of his body. Usually intense sweat is accompanied by intense breath. Not a big deal, but the incongruity is not lost on me.

We are lucky. We have a bed here in the CHLA day hospital. The space we occupy is roughly twice the width of Pablo's bed. I call it our stall. Enough room for the I.V. machines on the right side of the bed, and two chairs on the other. Our stall is encircled in a threadbare pale blue curtain. I have come to love this wall. Sunlight from the window a few feet away is filtered through the fabric; at the right hour, our stall glows a sci fi blue. The curtain hangs from silver metal hooks; the hooks are connected to a metal track that's bolted to the ceiling. For dozens of hours over the past 360 days, I have studied this mechanism with my eyes. It fascinates me.

The curtain provides a visual barrier, but does nothing for the audio. The sounds of the hustle + bustle all mix together and float through as we lay or sit in our air-floated fabric room. I can imagine some people would find the ambient noise unnerving. I actually like it. I find it comforting.

We've been here for exactly three hours. The chemo is just now starting. All the preliminary stuff eats up the morning. Labs and vitals, Dr M's physical exam, premeds (the Benedryl makes P sleepy, and then irritated + cranky) all have to happen before the main event. At this point, we'll be happy to be home before Walter Cronkite delivers the evening news.


Jules said...

Wonderful writing - I can picture it all!

I love the new pic up top - gives the page a nice, vibrant look.

Hope all goes well today.

Happy thoughts from TX...

Jen said...

Love the new title picture. Such a great moment captured in time. Sending good vibes and prayers to your family.

Vancouver, BC

Anonymous said...

Cute picture, definately captures JOY. I could never figure out what that toy was at the bottom of the last picture?

Wishing your family continued fun and togetherness.